Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Grade's call over swearing on TV

Michael Grade
Mr Grade said a large section of the audience did not want to hear swearing

Broadcasters must cut down on the use of bad language which has become "rather indiscriminate", ITV executive chairman Michael Grade has warned.

The use of the "f-word" in particular was now "a little unrestrained", he said in a speech to a London meeting of the Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG).

He spoke in the wake of lewd prank calls made by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on BBC Radio 2.

Mr Grade resigned as BBC chairman in 2006 before moving to ITV.

'Acid test'

In his speech, he stopped short of calling for a swearing ban, but said: "I don't think we take enough care over the use of the f-word and similar words.

Clip courtesy of BPG

"It used to be that you had a very senior sign-off to use that word in any show."

He said he was "not sure what the rules are these days".

"Clearly not enough consideration is given to a very large section of the audience who perhaps don't want to hear that word or such words.

"You therefore have to know why you're using it and give it a little bit of extra consideration.

John Beyer, of pressure group Mediawatch UK, welcomed Mr Grade's comments and said "the acid test is going to be how well ITV perform in this regard in the future".

"The onus now is on other broadcasters to follow this lead to do rather more to cut out what Mr Grade describes as 'indiscriminate swearing' which offends so many people," he told BBC News.

'Full marks'

"We hear swearing and bad language so frequently on television - much less on radio - that I think television has normalised bad language and so it does seem unexceptional now.

"An awful lot of people do find it offensive."

Mr Grade went on to praise the BBC's handling of the offensive calls row that followed the voicemail messages left by Ross and Brand for 78-year-old Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs.

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross
Rusell Brand resigned and Jonathan Ross was suspended over the row

In the calls, the pair made lewd comments about the actor's 23-year-old granddaughter Georgina Baillie.

They led to the resignations of Brand and Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas as well as the three-month suspension of Ross.

Mr Grade said the incident was "horrible" and "indefensible on any terms".

But he said he gave "full marks all around" for the way the BBC responded to the affair.

"The result was absolutely spot on - I thought it was beyond criticism."

He also praised Ms Douglas for acting "very honourably", and said she is a "hugely talented individual".

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